Buying Local in Lockdown?

It’s week nine of lockdown in the UK, and how many couriers have you made friends with? The postman has become my best friend, my food is delivered by a landscape gardener desperate to help the community, and I see the Amazon man more than anyone I know – and I’m not alone, right?

A report commissioned by John Lewis and Waitrose has revealed that our shopping habits have drastically altered during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s no longer a rush to the shops to stockpile toilet roll and tinned tomatoes, shoppers are instead seeking out cocktail ingredients (tequila sales have shot up 175%), exercise equipment and clothing (up 496% and 315% respectively) and pasta-making machines are selling at +216% compared to last year. In fact, the biggest increase in sales has been elastic, for making face masks at home (up 1430% YoY) and sales of landline phones rose 80% perhaps with fears of mobile networks being overwhelmed. Never mind, we’d just use Zoom, that’s where we’re all having a social life now!

Convenience Stores are also seeing demand for more unusual items. A retailer in Surrey has seen sales of more unusual products soar – with an overwhelming demand for mini white-boards and sketch pads, presumably as a result of home-schooling. And children’s puzzles, which they can no longer source ‘for love nor money’.

And the weekly shop is back! Gone are the days of nipping into the supermarket to grab a few ‘bits’ for dinner, we’re now studiously deciding on which 80 essential items to buy this week. According to Kantar, ‘the £26.02 being spent per trip to the supermarket was “easily” the highest it had ever recorded and was £7 higher than last year.’ Tesco bosses have likened this to shopping habits of 10-15 years ago.

Many small businesses are also booming as consumers shop closer to home for a chance to buy in demand items they can’t source elsewhere. And in true British spirit, we’re now looking to ‘support the little guys’. With many responding to the lockdown life, butchers, bakers, and greengrocers have been quick to change their business models and deliver, many at no additional cost. This philanthropic shopping was further supported by Instagram, with the launch of a Support Small Business sticker. Users were quick to respond by sharing their favourite small businesses via Instagram Stories – and encouraging us all to get engaged and get involved.

And at the time of writing, Facebook and Instagram has just rolled our Shops, turning business profiles into storefronts. So, from today, you can browse and buy directly from brands’ social profiles without leaving the app. Free to create, the company will charge a small fee on each purchase, with monetisation coming from advertising. Mark Zuckerberg described this as ‘a way to help businesses suffering in the wake of Covid-19, though acknowledged it will not undo all the economic damage’.

Everything seems to be moving incredibly fast in the world, and retail has a real challenge ahead… but we can support retailers who are unable to open by buying online, pre-ordering or buying gift vouchers, ordering takeaways or at home kits, supporting them on social – and of course visiting stores and observing social distancing when it is safe (and legal!) to do so.

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